Bella Besame tentatively stepped out on her first burlesque stage back in 1999 and since then, has gone on to perform worldwide, leading the way in producing the first burlesque and cabaret shows across the North and Yorkshire, and helped launch the careers of the some of the UK’s best performers. Bella is undoubtedly the ‘six degrees of separation’ on the scene, with being passionate about giving upcoming talent opportunities to perform and make networking connections. Performers that have started their burlesque journeys at Bella’s shows/classes include Anna Fur Laxis, Havana Hurricane, Rusty Von Chrome, Titsalina Bumsquash, Coco Malone, Em Brulee and Duke Wayward to name a few. She is also a mum of two and spends most of her time trying to balance having a successful 4 tier burlesque business with raising nice humans. She also has two dogs, loves to cook, is petrified of stick insects and is happiest on a beach somewhere hot and sunny.
1 What do you look for in an act?
The most important thing is that they are genuinely entertaining and it’s clear that they have perfected their routine as much as possible. If the act is merely ‘playing’ at performing, it’s not going to be entertaining for the audience.
2. What was the best booking you ever made?
Blimey, there’s a question!
Dirty Martini was solid gold, not just on stage, but off too.
Anna Fur Laxis made her very first burlesque performance debut at my Manchester night, after she’d finished taking my classes, which was another great moment – she absolutely stole the show that night!
Coco Malone made her burlesque&cabaret debut at The Slippery Belle too which was magic, her voice is just sensational. Plus Eva Fox aka Kim Fox too, she really has got the most sensational voice….and a filthy sense of humour on stage to match it!
There really are too many to name, I could spend hours answering this question!
3 Top 3 dream line up?
Dirty Martini again because, well, she’s THE best!
Sally Rand’s bubble balloon dance, just stunning.
Pearl Noire, she’s just gorgeous and her sensuality and energy projection is incredible.
4 How do you think the scene has changed?
In so, so many ways, it would be almost impossible to list them all here!
Costuming has evolved hugely for starters!
Understanding cultural appropriation has changed what goes on our stages, more performers are working harder at coming up with their own original ideas and not relying on using offensive stereotypes.
….plus there are now no more frilly knickers which used to be all the rage!
5 Do you think promoting has become easier or harder?
It’s a double-edged sword.
Easier in the sense that we have more social media platforms (MySpace had just started when I produced my first show!)
However, it’s harder because…..there’s more social media platforms! It is a full time job just to advertise shows online, let alone distributing flyers, posters and everything else that needs doing!
6 What made you start promoting?
I sent a message to a site who were involved in events and mentioned that there was huge potential for a burlesque show to work brilliantly in the Manchester area, and that I alone had about 30 students who would attend, plus that there was no shows that were solely burlesque & cabaret orientated.
The reply I received back was not only rude, but also stating that they wouldn’t pay any performers and would keep all the profits! I was so cross that I thought ‘f*ck it, I’ll do it myself and I’ll do it properly’.
The first one in Manchester had queues around the block and I had to turn people away which absolutely broke my heart. The same is true of the first Leeds burlesque & cabaret show too. I actually remember crying as wanted to let everyone in because they looked so gutted
7 What are your top tips for performers applying for one of your shows?
First and foremost, READ….THE…..CASTING….CALL.
If it asks for footage only sent by email, this does not mean commenting on the post saying ‘I don’t have any videos but here are 10 photos of the act’.
I honestly can’t even begin to tell you how frustrating it is for producers – and I know I’m not alone in this – to spend time reading applications that are not appropriate for the casting. It may sound harsh but we have a lot to do and not much time to do it in. Also, you want to be professional and taken seriously in your field!
Secondly, it is no good being a great performer if you’re unable to fulfill the other things that are expected of you, such as turning up on time. It is not just about what you do on that stage; it’s how you reply to messages in a timely fashion, read things thoroughly so you don’t ask questions that have already been answered, ensuring you send your music to the place requested and by the deadline given, etc.
Lastly, I have performers of all levels on my stages! Pretty much every show will have veteran performers, alongside people who are on the rise in their careers with complete newbies. It is super important to me that everyone gets their time on stage to do what they do best, regardless of how long they’ve been performing.
8 What does a timeline of key events, for a producer/ promoter look like for a show?
I generally book between 1-6 months in advance. This is dependent on varying factors – sometimes you may really want a performer but they have another tentative booking. This means I have to wait to hear back from the other show as to whether they are or are not required, sometimes this takes a few hours, sometimes a few months!
Promoting starts immediately after I’ve finalised the lineup. There is no time to waste! I would never try and book a line up at the beginning of the month for a show at the end of that same month, you need lead time to get the word out there.
9 What was your first show like ? any hic ups ?
As mentioned, I had to turn away a tonne of people which was gutting. I wish I’d done advance ticket sales but, for various reasons at the time, I wasn’t able to.
The first show went pretty well to be honest, however the stress and worry that preceded it was NOT fun!
Dreams that nobody would turn up/the performers wouldn’t come and I’d have a full house/that I’d mysteriously lose all my clothes whilst doing the door/that the police would raid the venue? Check!?
10 Biggest achievement so far?
It’s got to be still running successful shows after 12 years. I still can’t believe it’s gone so quickly. Plus bringing so many performers together, that’s pretty magical too.
11 Plans for the future?
To keep going, try to make every show better and to start producing more across Europe.
12 What makes you unique as a producer?
I guess the fact that I’ve been doing it for so long and that everyone gets treated the same – regardless of perceived ‘status’. No divas here! (Apart from Diva Hollywood obviously
13 And what’s the best thing for you about being a show producer?
Seeing the audience absolutely LOVING it and having a blast, it gives me such a high! Also, importantly, performers saying what a fun time they had. Happy vibes all round!
14 Advice for new producers or anyone considering going into it?
Check out your local scene. Before even thinking about setting a date in a venue, message the local producers!!! It’s basic courtesy and respect for your peers plus you don’t want to upset the very people who have been building the scene before you. Check if they have shows on around the same time as you’re hoping to do yours. Make sure you have a USP and don’t copy what others are already doing.
Know it will be hard work. You will question your sanity many, many, many times.
Be prepared for all eventualities. Booked a duet and asked them to bring their keyboard? Be ready to source a keyboard with an hour’s notice….and no budget! Performer arrived with no pasties? Be prepared to help out with making a spare pair! Venue’s loo breaks and floods the dressing room? Start piggybacking your performers across the water! (and yes, all of those things really happened!)
15 Do promoters/ producers have little sisters and brothers who they help/allow to shadow/ mentor with the ways of putting on a show effectively?
Absolutely! Just get in touch!